Pages: Despite losing, Gilas Pilipinas wins

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014


THE case of Gilas Pilipinas is one of those rare moments when, despite losing thrice out of three attempts, we end up feeling joyous. It’s as if we triumphed. We feel proud and raise our heads up high with a Pinoy smile.

We were not expected to win. Never were. The world anticipated our losses -- and that we’d lose humiliatingly. Twenty five-, 20-, 15-point losses -- those numbers were the sad expectations upon us.

Against Croatia? Greece? The world’s No. 3-ranked Argentina, the Olympic gold medalists of 2004? Excluding the Derrick Rose-led Americans and the host Spaniards, aren’t these three countries some of the best on Planet Earth?

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Yes. So, to lose by a mere three (in overtime), 12 and four points and to come close to beating these colossal teams—this wasn’t only unexpected, it was astonishing.

Imagine if, against either Croatia or Argentina, we pulled off the improbable? We’d have made headline news from ESPN to the front pages of Spanish newspapers to CNN’s World Sport.

I’m typing this less than two hours before last night’s 7:30 game against Puerto Rico. I don’t know the result. How I wish the outcome would be a victory for Gilas. It would cap an already extraordinary tournament -- like icing on top of an already delectable J.Co donut.

Last night’s Puerto Rico game represented possibly our only chance of attaining one “W.” Our next assignment against Senegal is difficult. These musclemen are massive and tough. They defeated Croatia.

To win last night and win once more against Senegal—that would be outstanding and it would put us into the Last 16 (granted that Argentina will defeat Senegal tonight).

We’re lowly-ranked world no. 34. And we have the shortest average height (at 6-foot-3) among the 24 squads. But based on the loudness of the cheering from the spectators to the biggest of hearts with that will to win, we’re right up there.

Thus far, Andray Blatche has lived up to our expectations. His 21 points-per-game average is the fifth best of the event (Pau Gasol leads with 23.7 PPG) and Blatche’s 13.7 rebounds-per-game is the top number of the tournament.

“We’re expecting to win out,” Blatche said. “We have a plan of winning the next two games.”

Manny Pangilinan deserves all the applause. He singlehandedly bankrolled the millions of dollars of expenses for Team Smart Gilas. This started years back. He mustered all his financial resources for Manila to host the FIBA Asia Championships—which led us to grabbing that No. 2 (runner-up) spot which brought us to Spain.

Not contented, he wants to host the FIBA World Championships of 2019.

Why the (awkward) date of 2019? That’s because, just like the Olympics and the Fifa World Cup, this basketball tournament is held every four years. Now we’re 2014... so the next one is 2018, right? Correct. But, so as not to compete with the Fifa World Cup (football), the organizers are delaying the event by a year... to 2019. (They’ll also expand the teams from the current 24 to 32.) After 2019, it will follow a four-year cycle.

MVP wants the Philippines to host in ’19. And, as you’ve probably read in yesterday’s news, four venues are needed. Three arenas are already standing in Metro Manila (MOA Arena, Smart Araneta Coliseum, and the new 55,000-seater Philippine Arena). The fourth one?

SM Seaside City Arena in Cebu.

I once asked Ms. Marissa Fernan, the top official of the SM Group in the Visayas, if SM will push through with a MOA Arena-like complex here at the SRP. Marissa could not directly confirm the report but said that, in the proper time, Mr. Hans Sy himself will make the announcement.

If MVP’s plan to submit our application to the FIBA Board pushes through, surely, the SM Group will help Philippine sports with Cebu’s very own SM Arena.

Abangan.

(john@pages.ph)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 04, 2014.

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